Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Walking the Thumbs

View from the Picnic Ground - The Thumbs

I felt thrice blessed this weekend. For a start I got out into the bush for the first time in ages and my walking buddy was able to come with me (his idea actually). Wattle bloomed along the roadsides together with the occasional flowering plum or cherry in a front garden. It was also a perfectly sunny day – no wind, no showers – I am sure there are children alive in Tasmania today, who have never seen this phenomenon. Lastly, I saw not one, but three Wedge- Tailed Eagles, riding the thermals above us. More about them shortly.

One of three Wedge Tailed Eagles

The Thumbs are a group of three small peaks about 2 Km off the Wiegelanta Road, just outside Orford, but the road to them is largely unsealed, so don’t take your hire car there. There’s a small picnic area there – no water or toilets, and a nice little walk which is supposed to take around two hours. It is mostly known for its excellent views of Maria Island and the East Coast and as one wag wrote, “It’s not often that the best views are to be had before you start your walk.” 

Almost at the top of the Second Thumb -what the track notes don't say is that there are very steep gullies between them

Nevertheless, we set off and conquered two of the hills before the last one stared us down. My friend had to be back in town by four, so we reluctantly had to leave it at that for the day, but hating unfinished business of this kind, I drove there again on Sunday and did all three.

The turquoise waters of  Freycinet are visible from the second lookout

Hakea lissosperma - Mountain Needlebush - almost in flower

Cythodes Glauca - Purple Cheeseberry, an endemic. Had often seen the red , pink and white ones, which grow here too, but not these. Some were almost black. What a shame they aren't very edible! 

Standing on the Second Thumb, the first one obscures the waterviews

Nice view of the surrounding mountains though

The next day......

On the Sunday, despite the fairly promising weather forecast - only 2% chance of rain, the weather wasn't nearly as nice. A fierce wind blew most of the time, threatening to bring down dead branches or even trees. I'm sure the 360 views from the top of the last thumb were pretty spectacular, but  it started to drizzle and I didn't want to linger long. It also grew very dark and the rain began bucketing  down just as I got back to the car.  One sunny day does not a spring make, but I was thrilled to have seen those eagles.

Looking across at the third Thumb from the top of the second. What a shame that there's a deep gully between them
The wind grows stronger and dark rainclouds  smudge the sky as I near the top, weather forecast notwithstanding

At the Third Lookout  -Trig Point to prove I made it, but  then it's Goodbye Thumbs, it's been nice knowing you!

I suppose this lovely cartoon by Leunig via the Leunig Appreciation Society sums it up:

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Well –dressed Trees -2

Speaking of well - dressed trees, I saw some others down near the hospital recently – the hospital which has been in the process of being rebuilt forever.

It didn't take long to discover that there was a whole street of these

It seems that our guerrilla knitters have been hard at work. Again, I thought wouldn’t it be better to have used the yarn to make a couple of blanket squares or maybe some hats and scarves, but then, thinking of the poor sods trapped in hospital beds up above, maybe it was a good use for a bit of wool. It certainly brightened up a rather dull day and made me look at my surroundings more closely.
Love those anonymous knitters. What a shame that their work is so ephemeral.

Not a Tree


Look at the detail in these!

Well Dressed Trees - 1


These coat -clad trees caught my eye as I was driving past a park the other day. What a waste in the name of Art I thought, especially at this time of year when many are cold and homeless. On closer inspection, this proved to be not such a bad idea after all, which just shows that one shouldn’t jump to conclusions.


What the well - dressed tree wears - pure wool
Here’s what the labels on the trees said:

Free on a Tree is the initiative of an 11 year – old – Hobart boy, Oliver Edwards, who thought of it as part of a homework challenge at his school last year, after we had had lots of flooding.  Since then the idea has caught on in a number of places such as Redcliff and Toowoomba in Queensland, as well as other parts of Tasmania.
Though you might be sweltering in the Northern Hemisphere just now, it's a great idea worth remembering for when the cooler weather rolls around – a way to anonymously donate a bit of warm clothing  without embarrassing the recipient.

It's also fantastic to see so many young people doing great stuff. I'm just thinking about another young Hobart boy, Campbell Remess, who has sewn hundreds of bears for children in hospital and all the schoolchildren who have been campaigning against Climate Change. When I am feeling all disillusioned and sad, things like this make me think humans may have a future after all.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Walking New Town Rivulet - 3 The Missing Middle

Alexander Calder's  Albion Mill on the Rivulet  opened in1841 (photo c.a. 1860 Tasmanian Archive Collection, PH40- 1- 186 -(originating agency unknown)*

Apparently that wasn’t the real New Town Rivulet that I followed on the first day, only a tributary. The main branch flows under New Town Road, almost a kilometre north of the Maypole Hotel, though the continuation is difficult to spot from the road. I got there by following it down from the dairy through the John Turnbull Reserve. This Linear Park has fitness equipment near the top, ball practice areas and a very well patronised dog exercise yard. After a bit of no -man’s -land with high voltage power lines, a few dwellings and a community garden, I found myself on Creek Road.  

St. John's Church New Town was built in 1835 but couldn't be consecrated until three years later

There are some interesting buildings in this area. Beyond some Aged Care and Community Care facilities stood the magnificent Tower of St. John’s Church.  This church, which has operated continuously since the 1830's, was designed by John Lee Archer, civil engineer and colonial architect from 1827 –to 1838. (Archer also designed a number of public buildings including Parliament House and The Theatre Royal, as well as the Ross Bridge).  Geoff Ritchie’s detailed post about seating arrangements within the church, tells us a lot about the social order in colonial times. On either side of the Church are the Orphan School buildings, girls on one side, boys on the other, which predated the church by two years. After the Orphan School closed in 1879, it became an infirmary for the aged and poor. In 1939 new buildings were added, such as Gellibrand House for war veterans and Wingfield House for children affected by the polio epidemic of  1937 -38.

A chequered history - Zayee Castle  - soon to re -open as a hotel

In the valley to my left there was …a Castle!?  It took quite a while to find out what that was about, but, Zayee Castle as it was called appears to have only been built in 1964. Since then, it had had various incarnations -as a Doll Museum, as a pub, and as a Yum Cha establishment, but will shortly return to its roots and re -open as a pub.  However, the real interest here lies in the colonial building behind it, which is much older. According to Heritage Officer at the Glenorchy City Council, David Parham, the property it's on was part of a 300 acre grant to one John Blackwell who came to the colony in 1819. The house may have been one of two mill houses on the site. Blackwell operated a tannery here which he gave up in 1832 and subsequently sold some of the land. 

 This area really was the beating heart of New Town as the Rivulet also served a number of other enterprises including Calder's flour mill (1841 though not entirely legal until1843), a brickworks, George Gatehouse’s brewery (1821) and the Constantia Distillery (1824), though there is no sign of these today.  The track soon deviates from the road and follows the Rivulet all the way to New Town Road. 

*(From Donald Howatson's "History of New Town - Sreet by Street, , 2011)
This sandstone cottage dates from the early days of settlement and may have been a mill house

 As I was crossing the road, I could see a really odd building – tall and turreted, just a little further down.  I asked several school students who were at the crossing with me, but no one could tell me anything about it. On closer inspection its gate was locked and barred and there was no signage except for "Keep Out" signs. Since it was on the corner of Tower Road, I asked passers -by in that street, but none of them had any idea either.  Eventually, a lady in her front yard (Thank you, Winifred) who had lived in the area for fifty years, was able to help me out. She also introduced me to the work of Donald Howatson who has compiled "The Story of New Town - Street by Street" (2011).

"The Towers"

 “The Towers” as it was called, was built by one William John Rout (1790- 1868) an ironmonger in Hobart, who had bought land from John Blackwell. Understanding the connection between poverty and crime, he was instrumental in establishing the Ragged Schools for poor children in the 1850s, to enable them to earn an honest living. These had already existed in Britain as the middle classes became alarmed at the growing poverty and squalor in their cities, fearing it would lead not only to crime but also to disease and depravity.  Strongly evangelical and moralistic, their guiding principle was “from squalor and vice to virtue and knowledge.” Although both Melbourne (1859) and Sydney 1864) took up the idea, Hobart had the first such schools in Australia. 
Rout also agitated for an end to transportation of convicts to Van Diemen’s Land. This finally came to pass in 1853 and to formally close this dark chapter in the colony’s history, its name was changed to Tasmania in 1855 -1856.

    Convict Bridge (1940) hidden beneath New Town Road

Back on New Town Road, I find a stairway leading to an elevated walkway beside the Rivulet. From here you can see an elegant 1840s convict -built bridge hidden beneath the road.  Alas, on the opposite side, some of  New Town’s more recent industrial history intrudes on my field of vision as if to remind me that this is in fact a working suburb. While it doesn’t look as romantic as the picture above, I’m sure that the reality of actually working in an old time foundry or factory was anything but. The Rivulet then meanders around the playing fields of New Town High School which was built on a former racetrack. New Town High School which began as Trades School in Bathurst Street, celebrates its centenary this year, though it has only been at the present location since 1952.

    Not so pretty -modern industrial architecture may not be as quaint, but you can be sure that the working conditions are better.  The Rivulet looks better again further on

    After crossing another road, the path suddenly stops at a residential area and I am obliged to walk along a road again. Towards the end  there is a small walkway, again unsigned, that brings me back to Risdon Road, almost at the intersection where the Rivulet had gone beneath the road on my first visit.

     I notice now that the main arm of the creek runs north along the edge of a verge on Albert Road.  This was where market gardens used to be and there's still an orchard on its far side. Next to the Rivulet where it starts to turn westwards, there are the beginnings of a track which lead to what seems to be an old farm house. This turned out to be Pitt Farm, presumably from  around 1810 and one of the oldest in Australia. I only found this out on seeing a painted signal box on my way back to New Town Road.  It is private property however, so I had to walk the long way around via Albert Road and Bowen Road to get back to to my car.  

    A glimpse of Pitt Farm c.a. 1810 

    The building I had seen had me wondering until I came across this nicely painted signal box

    There was however, one more surprise. Just as I neared Zayee Castle again, I could hear birds squawking in the trees. That racket was being made by what looked like young yellow -tailed black cockatoos.  I don’t know if they always live here, but on the West Coast you only see these when they anticipate very bad weather in the mountains. Given that most of New Town and neighbouring suburbs are now densely settled, this was an unexpected bit of nature in the city.

    A blurd -presumably a yellow -tailed black cockatoo, not usually seen in suburbia
    [Don't say you haven't been warned about my bird photography. You'll be pleased to know that I have since worked out what was wrong with my camera]

    I realise that local/Tasmanian history may not be of great interest to those of you reading this in say, Siberia or the Philippines, but I hope it inspires you to look at your own. Who are your streets named after and why?  I promise that that question alone will lead you down some interesting rabbit holes. Perhaps you will even find some common threads, such as the ideas behind certain developments and institutions, e.g. universal free education - myth that it is. I do like getting my history in small doses like this. Maybe it's the thrill of the chase?  Otherwise it's a bit like going to an Art Gallery where I tend to be a bit overwhelmed by seeing so many paintings all at once. The excitement for me is in finding that odd unexpected piece in an unlikely place where you can really focus on it.